- Women can be brutal when it comes to revenge, especially
when jealousy is at work. This theme comes across clearly in
“The Nightmare Room,” now playing at the In Tandem
Theatre. John Goodrum’s taut script, based on a Conan Doyle
short story, keeps us engaged throughout, though I do think if
he had shortened it to a 90-minute drama with no intermission,
it would have been even more powerful.
play opens, we find ourselves in a starkly furnished, locked
white room. One blindfolded woman is tied to a chair, as
another, splendidly dressed, is pacing around and taunting her
prisoner. We soon discover, because flashbacks are extensively
used, that they were once best friends, but now the wealthier
woman is married to a movie star (though she is more
successful than he is), and the other has been having an
affair with the cherished star, who apparently relies on his
good looks for his success.
the betrayed wife, has devised a scheme, supposedly to get rid
of one of them. Her “game” is deadly.
discovered a vial of poison in her husband’s desk drawer and
thinks that he planned to kill her so he could be with his
paramour, Helen. She has brought the vile vial with her and
pours it into a glass of water. She then pours another glass
of water. Since the poison is colorless, the glasses look
exactly alike. She then proceeds to move the glasses around
several times while Helen has her back turned. She then
invites Helen to take a turn moving the glasses around while
she turns her back. The next step is for both of them to drink
from one of the glasses, whereupon one of them will die.
before they drink their chosen cocktails, there are many short
scenes between this lovely pair, some depicting times past and
others, times present. At one point, there is even a physical
fight between the two of them, a very rare but very dramatic
scene. Helen flaunts her tawdriness and total disregard for
her friend’s feelings, and Catherine expounds on her outrage
and her determination to punish her betrayer. One wonders: Why
not expend as much energy on punishing her unfaithful husband?
C. McLellan as the suffering wife and Libby Amato as the
sneaky temptress are well cast, with McLellan displaying a
slight edge in maintaining her lethal focus. We don’t have a
lot of sympathy for either one of these women but are still
very interested in finding out how this elaborate scheme will
end. I’ll never tell, but I suggest you come and find out.
Black’s set design is perfect for creating a surreal
atmosphere, which parallels the incredibility of the story.
One goes along with it because one is in a different, bad
dream-like world throughout the play. It’s sort of like a
fantasy, creating the perfect scenario for a successful
Chris Flieller deserves credit for making this premier show
Nightmare Room” runs through Sunday at the In Tandem
Theatre’s Tenth Street Theatre, 628 N. 10th St., Milwaukee.
For show times and tickets, call 414-271-1371 or visit www.intandemtheatre.org